Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A + College Communication

A + College Communication

“Do I call you enough? I mean while you at school, did you want me to call you more?” For my college junior once a week was enough. Her response was… “Like no”  “…Anything more would be annoying…. You could send more packages though!”

She continued to describe how her roommates had differing experiences. One spoke to her mother a few times a week and another several times a day.
She noted that while the one who spoke to her mother several times a day, may have found solace in her mother’s voice, it tended to frustrate her roommates attempts to bond and get to know her. Her mother seemed good at listening to her daughter’s issues, but the fact that she was several hundred miles away didn’t help her in solving present problems. My daughter felt her roommate needed to talk less with her mother and more with her college peers.

How to connect with your college child?

Helping your child transition from adolescence into adulthood tears at parental heartstrings. When my oldest daughter left for her freshman year I began a crash course in the 3 W’s: worrying, waiting, and writing. 
  • I learned how to worry without letting my college student know. (Okay maybe that 1 a.m phone call gave me away.) 
  • I learned to wait for the phone calls and that letting bank funds dwindle was a great way to get a phone call.  Also, we learned to schedule a weekly date/time when we (both parents) could share a lengthy conversation with our student.  (Usually on the weekend)
  • I learned that writing and sending care packages helped ease my own fears and gave my child something from home to hold onto.  One note of caution: Reciprocal writing may or may not happen. If it does, enjoy the blessings of your student’s blossoming personality. If it doesn’t, keep your hope alive that they will mature with time.

Moderation Mode

Shifting into a communication mode that calls for less parental control and more self-control can be challenging, but if as parents we want to maintain our ground of mutual respect and shared experience, I believe we need to exercise moderate restraint.
  • We need to be involved in their lives… just not too much.
  • We need to let them know we miss them… just at the right time  (reminding them of home the first week at school may not be a good idea). 
  • We need to help them traverse educational difficulties but with just the right finesse.  
  • We need to ask them pointed questions about personal relationships, but allow them the right to not answer them directly. 
  • We need to teach them how to manage money and act as a banker until we believe they develop financial competency. 
  • We need to give them their freedom and help them know that the security of home is only a phone call away.
  • We need to guide them in learning how to set goals that will help them find life-balance with regards to social, educational, job, and financial matters. 
  • We need to find creative ways of letting them know we think of them often but we have faith in their ability to choose wisely.

Finding the Right Recipe

College students often hurt their parents feelings by not checking in enough. Parents often hurt their college students feelings by not trusting them enough. It is a fine line that must be walked with grace and diplomacy.  Knowing when to speak or when to bite your tongue is a parental skill that comes with a bit of practice and patience. 

I like the analogy I heard once of how parenting adult children is less like following a planned menu and more like preparing dinner from what you have in the refrigerator. You have to allow for your child’s changing personality and that can be difficult when you don’t interact with them as often. One thing is certain with families that love one another, any form of sincere communication will eventually evoke  feelings of love and understanding. The best recipe for any miscommunication is learning how to season it with love and talk it through.

Both parents and college students will find that striving for good communication throughout the college years will help build a strong foundation for rewarding adult relationships.

By Linda Shaw 

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